Reading Thucydides 2014

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John W.
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Re: Reading Thucydides 2013

Post by John W. » Fri Mar 29, 2013 8:50 am

Qimmik wrote:If you're actually translating T., you have to commit yourself to one reading or the other! Although here I'm not sure you really need to be so exact, and in any case you can't translate T. or any other ancient Greek author on a word-by-word basis. Greek is so different from English--it's not even like translating from a modern European language such as French, German or even Russian. You really have to paraphrase heavily to produce readable English. T. is one of the most difficult Greek prose authors, but others require paraphrasing to arrive at acceptable English, too. From what I've seen of published translations from a variety of languages, translators, even good ones, find ways to conceal their uncertainties.

I'm happy to help out when I can. I'm not a professional scholar or teacher, but I started studying Greek in secondary school when I was 14 (53 years ago), my undergraduate degree was in Classics, and over the years, I've done a fair amount of reading ancient Greek, both poetry and prose, as an avocation.
I agree with you regarding the literalness of translation. When I started work on mine (about twelve years ago) it was in order to have to hand a fairly literal version of Thucydides which recorded, for my future reference, my own 'take' on the text, particularly with regard to the many problematic passages. As I've worked on it since then through successive revisions, I've often found it necessary to move somewhat farther away from faithfulness to the words in order to achieve faithfulness to (what I believe to be) the actual meaning. It's been a fascinating experience, but I need to bring it to a conclusion of some sorts, so I've promised myself that my current revision (I've just started Book VII) will be my last - at least for now!

I studied Classics at university back in the '70s, but then largely let it lie fallow for twenty years, so you've done a good deal better than I have in terms of keeping things going.

Returning to the passage in hand, I'm now rendering it:

'And so by what rational argument could we ourselves shrink from this enterprise, or with what reasonable excuse to our allies there could we decline to help them?'

In other words, I've now opted to take τί εἰκὸς as applying to both clauses, as I was impressed by your argument that it should probably be taken as a unit.

Thanks to you and pster for your help with this knotty puzzle.

Best wishes,

John

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Re: Reading Thucydides 2013

Post by John W. » Wed Apr 10, 2013 8:22 am

As I think I've mentioned, for my current rereading of Thucydides (and for revising my own translation) I'm using Alberti's edition of the Greek text. While in my view a marked improvement on the OCT, it does sometimes cause me problems when it adopts readings which don't appear in previous editions, and which aren't therefore discussed in the commentaries.

At 7.56.4, Alberti reads as follows:

ἔθνη γὰρ πλεῖστα δὴ ἐπὶ μίαν πόλιν ταύτην ξυνῆλθε, πλήν γε τοῦ ξύμπαντος ὀλίγων τοῦ ἐν τῷδε τῷ πολέμῳ πρὸς τὴν Ἀθηναίων τε πόλιν καὶ Λακεδαιμονίων.

(For πλήν γε the OCT reads πλήν γε δὴ, and for ὀλίγων it reads λόγου.)

Alberti attributes the reading ὀλίγων to an interpretation of a papyrus given in a 1937 monograph by Bartoletti; unfortunately, I've found that the latter gives no clue as to how to interpret this reading.

At the moment my translation of the whole sentence stands as:

'For the largest number of peoples which came together at any single city assembled here at Syracuse, albeit a few short of the total which rallied to the support of Athens and Lacedaemon in the course of this war.'

To get to this I've had to expand the first part of the sentence on the assumption that it is a very condensed way of saying what I've suggested; my interpretation of πλήν γε τοῦ ξύμπαντος ὀλίγων is even more tentative.

I'd be very grateful for your thoughts on how to interpret Alberti's text of this difficult sentence.

Best wishes,

John

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Re: Reading Thucydides 2013

Post by pster » Wed Apr 10, 2013 11:30 am

Hornblower doesn't say much. He uses the OCT and he says that Dover rightly defends logoN--not sure why he doesn't say logou. I've budgeted more time than usual for Greek today, so I'll look at it over the next 12 hours.

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Re: Reading Thucydides 2013

Post by Qimmik » Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:36 pm

ὀλίγων is a puzzle to me. The best I can do is "by a few" with understood comparison stemming from πλεῖστα. The only way I can see to explain ὀλίγων is as something like the genitive of measure or degree (Smyth sec. 1325)--"except, by a small number, all of those who rallied to . . . " However, this usage is usually in the dative ("dative of measure of difference, Smyth sec. 1513), and I can't find a parallel use of the genitive in any of the grammatical texts at my disposal. ὀλίγων is certainly the difficilior lectio.

Generally, I think your translation is correct, except I think that ξυνῆλθε here means "join with," (see LSJ) or, as you supply with πλήν, "rally to the support of," not physically assembling in one place.

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Re: Reading Thucydides 2013

Post by John W. » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:10 pm

pster wrote:Hornblower doesn't say much. He uses the OCT and he says that Dover rightly defends logoN--not sure why he doesn't say logou. I've budgeted more time than usual for Greek today, so I'll look at it over the next 12 hours.
Thanks, pster - I look forward to hearing what you think.

John

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Re: Reading Thucydides 2013

Post by John W. » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:23 pm

Qimmik wrote:ὀλίγων is a puzzle to me. The best I can do is "by a few" with understood comparison stemming from πλεῖστα. The only way I can see to explain ὀλίγων is as something like the genitive of measure or degree (Smyth sec. 1325)--"except, by a small number, all of those who rallied to . . . " However, this usage is usually in the dative ("dative of measure of difference, Smyth sec. 1513), and I can't find a parallel use of the genitive in any of the grammatical texts at my disposal. ὀλίγων is certainly the difficilior lectio.

Generally, I think your translation is correct, except I think that ξυνῆλθε here means "join with," (see LSJ) or, as you supply with πλήν, "rally to the support of," not physically assembling in one place.
Qimmik - many thanks for this.

I took ὀλίγων as going with πλήν, since my understanding is that πλήν + genitive can = 'except'; I then took 'except for a few of the total' to mean 'albeit a few short of the total' - a free rendering, I admit, but I thought it might work here.

As for ξυνῆλθε, I think at the start of the sentence it does mean physically come together, since, as the next chapter (the 'catalogue of allies') makes clear, he is talking about the numbers of those who fought on both sides at Syracuse. Indeed, in chapter 56, just before the quoted sentence, he has talked about the allies on both sides; the 'For' at the start of our sentence links back to this.

John

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Re: Reading Thucydides 2013

Post by Qimmik » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:20 pm

I think you're right about ξυνῆλθε : after checking LSJ, I think ἔθνη probably means "masses of people," i.e,. "troops," not political entities, referring to the massing of forces around Syracuse. Do the words following πλήν refer to the masses of troops converging at Athens and Sparta? Or is he talking about the aggregate number of troops involved in the whole conflict on each side? Or the aggregate number on both sides?

It looks as if better scholars than you and I have been stumped by this passage, judging from the conjectures that have been targeted at it. The discussion in Dover (i.e., the last, posthumous volume of the Gomme series) may bring some clarity, but unfortunately I don't have ready access to it. This is one of those situations where clever translators cover their tracks. I'd suggest you accept the ms. reading λόγου as the basis for your translation and move on. You're entitled to do this because everyone else, including some famous names, has trouble with this passage.

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Re: Reading Thucydides 2013

Post by John W. » Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:34 pm

Qimmik wrote:I think you're right about ξυνῆλθε : after checking LSJ, I think ἔθνη probably means "masses of people," i.e,. "troops," not political entities, referring to the massing of forces around Syracuse. Do the words following πλήν refer to the masses of troops converging at Athens and Sparta? Or is he talking about the aggregate number of troops involved in the whole conflict on each side? Or the aggregate number on both sides?

It looks as if better scholars than you and I have been stumped by this passage, judging from the conjectures that have been targeted at it. The discussion in Dover (i.e., the last, posthumous volume of the Gomme series) may bring some clarity, but unfortunately I don't have ready access to it. This is one of those situations where clever translators cover their tracks. I'd suggest you accept the ms. reading λόγου as the basis for your translation and move on. You're entitled to do this because everyone else, including some famous names, has trouble with this passage.
Many thanks for these further thoughts.

I've so far taken the view that the reference is more likely to be to the aggregated total of those who supported the two sides, and that the basic meaning was that the total of peoples who went to fight at Syracuse on both sides was only a little less than that of those who fought in the war as a whole. But I may be wrong about this.

Gomme et al. offers little on this - it just supports λόγου, as meaning 'total' or 'count'.

Tempting as it is to go with λόγου, I've committed myself to following Alberti's text strictly. So, subject to any further thoughts which you, pster or anyone else may have, I think I'd better stick with my rendering for now. But it's always helpful to discuss these things, in case one has overlooked something.

John

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Re: Reading Thucydides 2013

Post by Qimmik » Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:02 pm

On more thing to think about. This is from LSJ, s.v. oligos
IV. special Phrases:
1. ὀλίγου δεῖν almost (v. δεῖ II); ὀλίγου ἐδέησε καταλαβεῖν wanted but little of overtaking, Hdt.7.10.γ᾽ : hence ὀλίγου alone, within a little, allbut, almost, “ὀλίγου σεκύνες διεδηλήσαντο” Od.14.37, cf. Ar.Ach.348,381,Nu.722, Lys.14.17, Pl.Prt.361b, D.19.334, etc. ; “ὀ. ἅπαντες” Pl.Ap.22b ; “ὀ. ἐς χιλίους” close upon 1,000, Th.4.124 ; ὀ. ἦλθεν ἑλεῖν (v. infr. 9) Paus.1.13.6.
See the citation from Plato's Apology. Could ὀλίγων here be a similar usage, where we have a plural noun as the referent, namely ἔθνη? Something like "almost the total" or "just about the total" where ὀλίγων with ξύμπαντος simply indicates a slight imprecision, with δεῖ omitted, as it is typically in this idiom, including in the passage from the Apology). I guess that's how you're translating it. What doesn't quite match up syntactically is that πλήν calls for a noun complement, not a verbal clause (understood δεῖ), but if you translate ὀλίγων δεῖ as an idiom meaning "almost", it doesn't quite make sense "the most . . . except almost the total of those who . . . " Sorry I couldn't let go of this.

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Re: Reading Thucydides 2013

Post by John W. » Fri Apr 12, 2013 8:57 am

Qimmik - many thanks for this, and apologies for the late reply.

I haven't yet had a chance to give your comments proper consideration, but will do so after the weekend. I also want to have a look at any parallel passages in Thucydides, to see if they provide any linguistic clues: for instance, Betant's Lexicon Thucydideum lists a number of other instances of πλήν, some of which might be worth examining in this context.

Best wishes,

John

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